October 5, 2006

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Oh in Ohio (R)
Parker Posey looks for sexual fulfillment with the help of Liza Minelli, Danny DeVito, Heather Graham and some really long-lasting batteries in the Oh in Ohio, a sex comedy that actually deals directly with sex.

(This movie is rated R and I'd estimate this movie review should be considered at least a PG-13. Consider yourself warned.)

You can keep your faux-daring Wedding Crashers and your self-consciously naughty Farrelly brothers movies. Feature Liza in a flowy pink tunic urging WASPy women of her discover-your-sexuality class to name and sketch their girlie parts (Posey's character names hers "My Vagina") and then you can praise yourself for your edginess. And I'm not even going to go into Posey's initial choice when shopping at sex shop (it was, er, ambitious).

Priscilla Chase (Posey) is a perky, predictable corporate retention specialist for Cleveland. She does not dread sex, per se, with her high school biology teacher husband Jack (Paul Rudd) but she doesn't exactly thrill at the thought of it either. With him, she can get the car on the road but she doesn't quite reach her destination. This has turned Jack into a bitter, self-loathing, everybody-loathing mess. He takes a stand and moves out setting up housekeeping in their garage. With an "Age of Aquarius"-type dance number unlikely with Priscilla, Jack feels like half a man. What will cure his misery? Your first answer probably isn't "a horribly inappropriate relationship with a student played by Mischa Barton" but perhaps you and Jack have differing ideas about what makes for good therapy.

Jack wants to work on his marriage with Priscilla but the attractions of Kristen (Barton) are strong, especially after Priscilla takes the advice of a therapist and gets a little mechanical help finding, well, the oh in Ohio. Jack sees this battery-powered intervention as a betrayal, a final straw, an insult to his manhood and quicker than you can say "brought up on charges" Jack's snug in the arms of Kristen.

Jack's little fling prods him to move out, dress better and start exercising. Priscilla isn't exactly heartbroken to see Jack leave. In fact she doesn't really notice Jack leave or much else, for that matter because she's so busy delighting in the oh. When work finally forces her to dress herself and leave home, she craves her new buzzy friend and finds a surprising new use for her pager.

Priscilla embarks on a search to find this kind of contentment with a live human male (though she's flexible about that "male" part), a road that eventually leads her to a strange relationship with Wayne the Pool Guy (DeVito), a contractor who's been after her for years to dig a hole in her backyard.

To put in a pool. Because he's a pool guy.

That wasn't a euphemism. I swear.

Oh in Ohio is a strange little movie. Like a woman who just can't keep her mind off the unfolded laundry long enough, Oh in Ohio doesn't quite go all the way. But this light little comedy is funny and approaches sex from a girlier perspective than most sex comedies.

Priscilla is neither stupid nor prude surprisingly, she gets to have the same kind of removed-from-romance lust often reserved only for men in such comedies. But she isn't turned into some kind of one-dimensional parody. She searches for something not really sure what with a kind of genuineness you don't expect for a movie whose movie poster features a bikini-clad woman, waist down.

Posey is perfect at portraying this kind of unironic character without letting the performance get too jokey and without winking at the audience. Who'd have thought a movie about orgasms could be so gosh darn sweet? B-

Amy Diaz